Family Support Makes It Easy To Follow Your Dream

The best news after being part of a Disney press event is that opening weekend was a success! Disney*PIXAR’s Coco opened in theaters in the USA and it topped every movie in the box office and, with an A+ CinemaScore, all critics agree that it is the must-see film of the Season!

Disney/Pixar has a history of topping the box office on Thanksgiving weekend, but this year it’s so personal  and special to me because not only coco showcases themes of life, tradition and family love, groundbreaking animation and breathtaking storytelling, it is the first animated film with an all-Latino cast and Disney/Pixar’s first film with a minority lead character. And what a character he is!

Even though I was quite smitten while interviewing Benjamin Bratt and Gael García Bernal (and what heterosexual girl wouldn’t?), I have to say that my favorite interview was Anthony González, who voices “Miguel,” accompanied by Alanna Ubach, who voices  “Mamá Imelda,” the matriarch of the Rivera family in Disney*Pixar’s Coco.

Anthony González is an absolute delight to be around and joy emanates from his huge smile. It’s no secret that he is exceptionally talented and his vocals are out-of-this-world amazing; however, he confesses he didn’t have to get much into character to play the role Miguel in Coco because they are so alike (although he really would have liked to play Dante, because “he’s so silly!”):

I feel like me and Miguel just both want to pursue our dreams… I’m very similar to Miguel, because we both just love the music. We both care about of our families, a lot, and we know how important that celebration of Día de Los Muertos is… I can’t believe I’m part of a movie that celebrates and shows this wonderful celebration!

Anthony González, a Los Angeles native with Mexican parents, has been celebrating the Day of the Dead since he was 6.

The time I actually started celebrating was when my grandfather passed away. He was very special to me, because he was always there for me, and he would just be so funny, and he was always there to support me in what I loved to do, which was sing. I would love to celebrate the Day of the Dead, because it was a day where I could be with him, and connect with him once again, and that’s why I loved this joyful celebration.

In Disney*Pixar’s Coco, Miguel, just like Anthony González is a 12-year-old boy who has a big family and has always dreamed of being a musician. We learn of Miguel’s extraordinary journey to the the stunning and colorful Land of the Dead, where he enrolls charming trickster Héctor (voice of Gael García Bernal) in his quest to become an accomplished musician like his idol, Mexican music sensation Ernesto de la Cruz (voice of Benjamin Bratt). 

But unlike Miguel’s family, instead of having a generational ban on music, the González family loves music and his family support has contributed to Anthony González’ desire and ability to follow his dreams to be an actor and musician.

Though this is Anthony González’ first film both singing and acting (his two passions), he has been singing and acting since he was 4. He was inspired by his sisters to sing in La Placita Olvera in Los Angeles, and eventually, the street Mariachi performances involved all five siblings (two brothers and two sisters). He also participated in many music contests, and even auditioned for for Telemundo’s La Voz Kids (The Voice for kids).

Anthony González performed in Despierta América and Sábado Gigante, too! Though he told us he “never thought” he’d be an actor, he said his agent spotted him while reading with his siblings for a show in Univision. I found this clip of him singing one of my favorite José José songs “La Nave del Olvido” on his mom’s YouTube Channel.

I cried when I saw this video, because I saw myself in Lilian González. I could feel what she is feeling because when you see your kids living their dream, it’s deeply meaningful after all you’ve sacrificed to help them achieve it.

It’s been a complete blessing for me and my parents. Especially my mom. She’s so happy. And every time she sees the movie, I turn around, and she’s like, . She’s just so happy, and she can’t believe I’m in a Disney-Pixar movie, and I can’t believe it… She’s been an incredible support to me.

I had the honor of meeting Anthony González’s mom after we took a group picture for our interview. She is so humble and sweet! She thanked us so much for supporting Anthony in his role as Miguel and for supporting Coco.

Later that day, I had a chance to actually chat with her one-on-one and en Espanol, which was my favorite part of the entire trip. She told me that this was more than a dream come true and she was just trying to support her children in their dreams.

I can relate to Lilian González, who is an immigrant to the USA and has struggled a lot to bring up her children and to make she offers the emotional and financial support to help them live their dreams. In more than one occasion, she even lost her job because he would choose to support her son in a singing competition.

ANAHEIM, CA - JULY 14:  Actor Anthony Gonzalez of COCO took part today in the Walt Disney Studios animation presentation at Disney's D23 EXPO 2017 in Anaheim, Calif. COCO will be released in U.S. theaters on November 22, 2017.  (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney) *** Local Caption *** Anthony Gonzalez

We get to see famous actors and famous singers in all their glory, but sometimes we ignore all the grit and grime of the story. I certainly did not even suspect any of this when I first saw Miguel at D23 Expo earlier this year. Not only it’s been a long road since Anthony González started his career, he first auditioned to be Miguel in Coco when was 9 years old and it took him two years of going to the Pixar Headquarters to do scratch voices to land the part, too! Talk about a dream come true!

One really special moment for me was when Anthony González shared another big dream of his:

One of my big dreams was to be home schooled, and I finally got to be home schooled.  And I love it, because I get to act more, and I get to sing more, and that’s why I wanted to be home schooled, because I’d get to pursue my dream more.

I love that Lilian González is a homeschool mom like me. It’s such a hard decision to make when it’s not your idea. I remember being so terrified and feeling so inadequate, but because I knew that my kids would be happier, I really felt like it was the only option I had that would align with my purpose.

And for Lilian González, what she’s most excited about, she told me, is being able to raise funds so other struggling families can support their kids pursue careers  in the performing arts, just like her children! I gave her such a tight hug and we both got teary-eyed. It was a moment I’ll never forget.

As per Alanna Ubach, well, what can I say? She is known for her roles in Legally Blonde, Meet the Fockers and Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce and plays my favorite character in Disney/Pixar Coco, Mamá Imelda, who my kids say I’m most like – maybe because she’s feisty and intense, and hopefully, because of her entrepreneurial spirit, strength, and self-confidence.

BLESSED? – Aspiring musician Miguel learns from the head clerk in the Department of Family Reunions in the Land of the Dead that he’ll need a blessing from a family member to return to the Land of the Living. But Miguel’s great-great-grandmother Mamá Imelda’s blessing comes with an unfortunate condition. Featuring Anthony Gonzalez as the voice of Miguel, Gabriel Iglesias as the voice of the clerk and Alanna Ubach as the voice of Mamá Imelda, Disney•Pixar’s “Coco” opens in U.S. theaters on Nov. 22, 2017. ©2017 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

Mamá Imelda is Miguel’s great-great-grandmother, so they are able to meet in the Land of the Dead. She’s not happy about Miguel wanting to become a musician, because both the family’s ban on music and the shoemaking business started with her.

I first met Alanna Ubach at WeAllGrow Familia and I instantly fell in love with her and learned that her stellar mastery playing the voice of Mamá Imelda came from embodying her tía Flora.

She was very grand. She was a very ornate character, and such an important figure growing up when I was a little girl… She had such passion. She was the DNA of my family, and she was very passionate and had this stoicism that was so admirable… I never forgot her inflections. She was very sing-song-y, and she spoke the way she spoke Spanish when she spoke English… so I thought, I’m going to make this character. I’m going to base her after my tía Flora.

Alana Ubach is more like her tía Flora than she realizes. I have been blessed to be in several rooms she entered, and I can say without a doubt that she owned those rooms! She is perfect for Coco and Coco is perfect for her, too!

I think it just paints such an exquisite picture of the afterlife, and when my son is old enough to see this film, he’ll be able to say, “Mama, if this is what the afterlife is like, I’m not afraid of death.” { Death } is just as beautiful as birth.

She’s funny, outspoken, and a positive mom, too!

Her son, Thomas Rodolfo Russo III, was born in July, and was named after both his parents’ late fathers. She opened up to us about the struggles of breastfeeding (and the pain of pumping) as well as her journey trying to get pregnant for a year, and how just a couple of months after stopping fertility treatments, she became pregnant naturally.

Alanna Ubach’s late father was from San Juan, Puerto Rico and her mother, who is 78 years old and attended the Red Carpet premiere with her, was raised in Los Angeles and original from Sinaloa, Mexico. They were both very supportive  her following her dreams in the performing arts and sung songs to her as a little girl.

She gracefully agreed to sing one of those songs during our interview at the Beverly Hilton. She actually sings that song to her 12-week-old song before going to sleep, and she laughed as she told us it puts him to sleep every time – without fail! She had us in tears when she told us she wants her son to remember that:

…That I sang him funny, silly little songs, and that I loved him with my very soul…

And then added:

He breaks my heart every single day.  He gets a hammer to my heart and pounds on it, and then hands it back to me, and then it takes me 23 hours to put it back together all over again, and then the following day he does the same thing.  He’s my life.

She’s totally relatable, isn’t she?

Her exquisite voice came as a surprise to her closest family:

My mother used to tell me about this story of Llorona, so it was a big surprise for her hear this song that I sang, because it’s about that woman, and it is about that character that she used to talk about when I was a little girl. 

{ My husband } was just floored and he didn’t really know that I could sing like that!

They were both weeping by the end of the film. I was sitting just a couple of rows ahead of them and the atmosphere was incredible.

It was so important for Pixar to make this movie, because, to me, it really does respect the one important quality that Latin and Latin Americans have, and that is the importance of family. That it can never be broken. No borders or presidents or politics can ever break the bond of familia, and I think that’s something that people will walk away with.

This is so true!

And Anthony also hopes that people all over the world start celebrating The Day of the Dead because “it’s a universal celebration.” He also had some wise parting words to say about Disney*Pixar Coco:

What I hope that the audience gets from watching this wonderful movie is, if they have, a secret passion to share it with the world!

Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt) says “No one was going to hand me my future, it was up to me to reach for my dream, grab it tight and make it come true,” but Anthony González, who admittedly loves to seize his moments, puts it beautifully:

Thankfully, I had the support of all of my parents and my siblings, so it was very easy to do what I love… I never give up, and really do my best, and do what I love, and no one can stop me!

Anthony González and Alanna Ubach’s enthusiasm was so contagious. They raved about the Red Carpet Premiere, the songs, the cast, and the merchandise, too! Remember to enter the GIVEAWAY for a chance to win the Disney/Pixar Coco Prize Pack!

How do you help your kids on the path to their dreams? I’m excited to hear how you think family support makes it easy to follow your dream.

Make sure to follow along with me on social media using #PixarCocoEvent for more interviews with the Disney•Pixar’s “Coco” cast and filmmakers, as well as more from Olaf’s Frozen Adventure, #ABCTVEvent, and Big Hero 6 The Series. Check out http://movies.disney.com/coco, Hashtag: #PixarCoco, Pixar Coco Facebook, Pixar Coco Twitter and Pixar Coco Instagram, too!

Elayna Fernandez - Author - 
Speaker - Success Guide to Moms and Mompreneurs
© Elayna Fernández ~ The Positive MOM

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Interview photos by Silvia Martinez | Red Carpet pictures courtesy of Disney

20 thoughts on “Family Support Makes It Easy To Follow Your Dream

  1. This looks beyond incredible and I adore your in-depth review. As a Latina mom as well this movie holds a special place in my heart.

  2. Ths sounds so beautiful and amazing movie. I am a Disney movie fan. I am going to check this out with my daughter. Family support is so important, it is the base of how the kids start to think about themselves and the way they give importance to their dreams.

  3. A child starts dreaming about his future when he feels his family’s support. I love all the lessons this movie is going to teach the kids. A truly must see movie for every one

  4. Story of life, love and family. That was a great movie. I am a big fan of Disney and it is so much fun watching movies from them. Inspiring story.

  5. Love and support from your family is key in for kids to thrive and strive to make dreams and go for it. If and when I have children I will support them as much as I can in their dreams.

  6. Lillian and Anthony Gonzalez seem like extremely motivated people. He to become a singer, actor and her to support her children to be whatever they dream to be. Actually everyone involved seem to be real go getters!

  7. I think having family support makes following your dream so much easier. I aim to provide that for my two littles in every way possible. I know that life is so much fuller when you follow your dream. I’m really looking forward to seeing Coco as well.

  8. I can tell why it would be such an emotional trip for you meeting the stars of Coco and a sweet mama too. I love that his mom is thinking of others, making it possible for others to follow their dreams.

  9. It already sounds like an amazing movie! Pixar definitely knows how to touch our hearts. I think it’s awesome that they chose an All Latino cast to make sure that the movie is as true to its core as possible. I cannot wait to watch it!

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